Hester Prynne’s Punishment (The Scarlet Letter Ch. 1-3)

A crowd of eager and curious school boys, understanding little of the matter in hand, except that it gave them a half-holiday, ran before her progress, turning their heads continually to stare into her face, and at the winking baby in her arms, and at the ignominious letter on her breast. 

The Scarlet Letter opens by introducing us to Hester Prynne, a woman who apparently is an adulterer, heading to an inhumane and extremely un-Christian punishment, which is to stand in front of the whole town wearing a mark of her sin, and then continue to wear it indefinitely. 

The book clearly describes how painful this was for her. The town where she lives boasts being a “Good Christian” community, and that they make sure to try and weed out sinners like her. One character a little later in the book tells a stranger that it must bring him great joy to see a sinner condemned. This form of punishment is actually very sickening, and in these first few chapters alone it is obvious how Hawthorne is pointing out the irony in this Puritain community. Because Prynne is a sinner, everyone treats her horribly so nobody else would want to sin. By treating Prynne so horrible though, everyone else is sinning, because the teachings of Jesus Christ stress mercy above almost everything else. Mercy is a crucial element in the New Testament, and it is bizarre that these townspeople did not remember it. 

Also, the way Prynne was forced to stand in front of the crowd mocking her brings to mind another Christian image, that of Jesus Christ on the cross. Once again, it seems like something the people should have noticed in their hypocrisy but do not. 

This book opened very captivating my and makes me very excited to read more. 

-Paulie 🙂

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